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The purpose of second‐order cybernetics

Ranulph Glanville (CybernEthics Research, Southsea, UK)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 1 October 2004



In this paper, the origins of second‐order Cybernetics are sketched, and are particularly identified with circularity: a quality that was at the basis of the studies that lead to the creation of the field of Cybernetics. The implications of the new analysis that second‐order Cybernetics (Cybernetics treated cybernetically: that is, Cybernetics when circularity is taken seriously) gives rise to are considered in terms of the two qualities that Wiener gave to Cybernetics in his eponymous book – control and communication. Finally, the analysis is applied to that other proto‐cybernetic concept, purpose. It is shown that (and in consequence how) the notion of goal and purpose must be radically reconsidered in second‐order Cybernetic systems.



Glanville, R. (2004), "The purpose of second‐order cybernetics", Kybernetes, Vol. 33 No. 9/10, pp. 1379-1386.



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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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